Lions host ‘Riders in final preseason primer Friday

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(Vancouver) Following three weeks of preparation in Kamloops, the time has come for one final audition for newcomers as the BC Lions host the new-look Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night at BC Place.

Like all summer games this year, tickets for kids 12 and under are available for just $5 all-in.

It’s been a competitive and productive training camp for GM and head coach Wally Buono and his staff as the Leos look to build on their second-place finish in the West Division last year.

I believe we are a better team than we were a year ago at this time,” says Buono. “The only place it counts however is on the field, so we need to go out and perform to the level of expectation we have created for ourselves.”

A veteran line-up featuring many of its returning stars from a year ago complimented by a successful dip into free agency in February, the Lions have few holes to fill on either side of the ball beyond looking for a replacement departed all-star linebacker Adam Bighill.

Quarterback Jonathon Jennings begins his second full season under centre after becoming just the fourth Lion to throw for more than 5,000 yards last year. Returning pass grabbers Emmanuel Arceneaux, Bryan Burnham and Nick Moore have been rock-solid in camp and newcomer Chris Williams’ return is on schedule for July. Look for Jennings to see the majority of snaps Friday.

On defence, look for the biggest roster battle to come from the club’s stable of competing defensive linemen. Buono’s camp mandate of getting more turnovers from his secondary is intrinsically linked to getting pressure on the quarterback. The war in the trenches is where it starts and often ends.

While it doesn’t count in the standings, don’t underestimate the importance of Friday’s game for the Lions. With the club opening the season at home the next week before hitting the road for three games out east, the long road to November is best started with a win tomorrow night.

The Lions open the 2017 CFL regular season versus the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday, June 24.

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